After  years of denying there is a housing crisis in Christchurch, Gerry Brownlee starts to panic about 'severe housing issues'. But none of it is his fault, apparently.

Ever since the big quake,  the Earthquake Recovery Minister  has monotonously denied that there is a housing crisis in Christchurch.

Even as late as August this year Gerry Brownlee  said that  'there is absolutely  no evidence of a housing crisis in Christchurch'  Shortly after the Ministry of Housing, Innovation and Employment reported that over 7000 people in Christchurch could be homeless.

This figure was dropped on the city council's  community, recreation and cultural committee by ministry researcher Dan Martin. Martin  also warned that the situation would continue to deteriorate throughout 2014.

And deteriorate is the word when it comes to housing in Christchurch. Last month Christchurch City Missioner Michael Gorman,  a man at the coal face of the housing crisis,  told the Christchurch Star :  'I've never ever known it to be like this. It is  the worst  it has ever been. Usually  there is  always hope but now it feels  there is no hope left out there.'

Brownlee is often dismissed as the incompetent clown who eats all the pies (I plead guilty of such a caricature) , but this merely makes light of the enormous damage the man has inflicted on Christchurch. He  and his  government's ideological belief that somehow 'the market'  will sort things out has only served to reduce people's lives to one of financial hardship, homelessness, health problems and a myriad of other difficulties.

Brownlee's  myopic belief that the  free market will provide sufficient housing  has been as realistic  as his insistence that competition in the market would eventually lead to a fall in rents. But they have only continued to go in one direction. Up.

 Today we have families living in the quake damaged houses of the former red zone because they can't afford the rents that are being demanded.  Having a roof over your head is a basic human requirement and, when there is a lack of houses to go around, it is a need that can be exploited. And a lot of Christchurch landlords - the vampire class-  have enthusiastically exploited this need.

But with an election looming Brownlee has started to panic. In one of the greatest displays of hypocrisy this year , Brownlee  last month  accused the Christchurch City Council of being  slow to   impose his miserable  plan to squeeze more housing within Christchurch's present urban boundaries

'The longer we wait the more severe our housing issues will become,' lectured Brownlee. That his failure to act for over  three years has served only  to exacerbate  the crisis doesn't seem to have occurred to him at all.

The Christchurch City Council have been less than enthusiastic  about Brownlee's miserable  plan because they know that not only will it not work, it will lead to future problems.

It won't increase the number of affordable homes  and will only serve to destroy Christchurch's urban environment with, among other things , two  cramped and  characterless  boxes built on land  where they once  stood a good family home with a garden. Of course Gerry Brownlee won't be moving into one of these tiny  boxes anytime soon and his quality of life will remain unaffected.

It will allow property developers to make even more money  out of the housing crisis as they proceed to wreck Christchurch's urban environment.  Councillor  Yani Johanson has already raised the spectre of future slums.

While Housing Minster Nick Smith has repeatedly  argued that there is no 'silver bullet' to solving the housing crisis what he doesn't say is that it his  beloved free  market which  cannot provide a realistic solution.

It is not enough to exhort the market and fiddle with planning, as Brownlee continues to do.

 A common sense solution is that the state must again assume its responsibilities. The state must again engage with the community to build affordable homes for all.

We need a real change in society where homes are built for peoples needs not for profit. We should remove the profit motive from housing for good.  We should  put people's need before private profit.

But right now Christchurch is dealing with a   Earthquake Recovery minister who is a neoliberal fathead  and who said last year that the government did not want to 'influence' the housing market because it could  'lower the appetite of private investors to provide a solution that could be lucrative for investors'.

Yes,  we must look after those struggling property investors...


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